Something to Fall Back On

Other talented boys and girls were winning the writing prizes. At home, I heard "your brother's the only one who's got any talent." Other than dutifully turning well-researched and (thanks-to-Mom) edited term papers in on time, the writer in me went underground.

Sure, I dabbled here and there, but when I had to choose between a graduate program in counseling and further courses in creative writing, I decided on listening to others. I felt it would guarantee I would "always have something to fall back on." More term papers, more restraint.

It wasn't until my brother died in 1996 that the urgency to express myself in less conventional ways surfaced. I discovered that writing, as well as other forms of creative expression, provided just the "something to fall back on" that I most needed while trudging through the depths of grief. I know it's not the "something to fall back on" my pragmatic mother had in mind, but it is a safety net of a different sort. I write so I can witness what the inside of me is saying and feeling. If I remain ignorant of that, how can I be of service to others as a listener? I can't. I write almost daily. Sometimes it's just an e-mail to a friend, sometimes it's what one client describes as a "core dump," and sometimes it's the first draft of a poem, essay, or memoir.

I share my writing with others whenever I can. Even if the feedback is critical, I relish the experience of being listened to. If you aren't already a writer, I encourage you to try it. Or try some form of creative self-expression. (See Feel Better ...)

Here are my top 5 picks (oh, okay, make it 6) for great books to launch a creative life of listening to oneself:

Elizabeth Berg, Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True
Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Stephen King, On Writing
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Sol Stein, Stein On Writing


  Photo by Bill Scala


Martha Clark Scala, MFT • 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 •